Best Midi Controllers For Ableton (Ultimate Guide)

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Looking for the best midi controllers for Ableton? This ultimate guide will help you find the perfect match for your music production needs. Learn about the features, pros, and cons of different models, and compare them side by side. Whether you need a keyboard, a pad, or a knob controller, this blog has you covered.

1. Novation Launchkey 49

VERSATILE PERFORMANCE

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2. Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII

PROFESSIONAL FLEXIBILITY

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3. Nektar Panorama T6

INTUITIVE CONTROL

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4. M-Audio Hammer 88

AUTHENTIC FEEL

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5. Alesis V161 MIDI Keyboard

VERSATILE PERFORMANCE

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6. NI Komplete Kontrol S49

INTUITIVE INTEGRATION

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1. Novation Launchkey 49

VERSATILE PERFORMANCE

16 RGB launch padsEight knobs automatically map controls.
Built-in arpeggiator creates complex patterns.Generous software bundle included.
Picture by Novation
Picture by Alesis

PROS

  • If you are in search of the best MIDI controllers for Ableton, you may want to take a look at the Novation Launchkey 49. This particular keyboard controller offers a range of impressive features that make it an excellent choice for Ableton users. Listed below are four key advantages of the Novation Launchkey 49:                                                 

    1. Featuring 16 RGB launch pads, this controller illuminates with colors that correspond to the clips in Ableton Live’s Session view. This makes launching, stopping, and recording clips a breeze with just a simple tap on a pad. Additionally, these pads possess velocity sensitivity, allowing you to also play drums, melodies, and chords.

    2. Equipped with eight rotary knobs, the Novation Launchkey 49 automatically maps to the macro controls of your instruments, effects, and racks in Ableton Live. This enables you to effortlessly adjust your sounds without the need for a mouse or keyboard. If desired, you can also switch the knobs to standard MIDI mode and assign them to any parameter you wish.

    3. This controller includes a built-in arpeggiator that empowers you to create intricate patterns and rhythms with any sound source. Adjustable modes, octaves, rates, and gate times provide flexibility, and the ability to synchronize the arpeggiator to Ableton Live’s tempo further enhances its functionality. Moreover, the pads can be used to transpose, latch, and mutate the arpeggio.

    4. As an added bonus, the Novation Launchkey 49 comes with a generous software bundle that comprises Ableton Live Lite, Novation Bass Station and V-Station plug-in synths, and 1GB of Loopmasters sample content. With these resources at your disposal, you can immediately dive into music production armed with a diverse range of sounds and loops.

    Overall, the Novation Launchkey 49 is an enjoyable and versatile MIDI controller that seamlessly integrates with Ableton Live. It empowers you to take control of your music production and performance, and encourages exploration of new creative possibilities. To learn more about the Novation Launchkey 49, feel free to refer to the reviews provided , or watch this informative video .

CONS

  • The Novation Launchkey 49 is a sought-after MIDI controller for Ableton Live, but it does have some drawbacks.                                                                                                                                                                         
  • Firstly, the keys lack responsiveness and expressiveness. Although they aim to mimic a real piano’s feel, they struggle with sensitivity and dynamics. Users have found the keys to be stiff and challenging to play, especially for delicate passages. Additionally, adjusting the velocity curve may prove difficult, affecting the desired sound quality from virtual instruments.                                                                                                 
  • Secondly, the 16 RGB pads designed to trigger various functions in Ableton Live are not dependable or durable. Users have expressed concerns about their small, closely positioned nature leading to accidental hits and subsequent wear and tear after months of usage. While the Novation Launchkey 49 boasts several advantages, it’s essential to consider these cons meticulously before committing to this MIDI controller.

2. Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII

PROFESSIONAL FLEXIBILITY

61-key, semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive, aftertouch.RGB pads trigger various functions.
9 faders, 9 rotary knobs.Integration with Arturia’s Analog Lab.
Picture by Arturia

PROS

    • If you are searching for a MIDI controller that is compatible with Ableton Live, the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII is a great option to consider. This keyboard offers several features that make it ideal for Ableton users. Here are the advantages of the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII:

      Firstly, it boasts a high-quality keybed that is semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive, and equipped with aftertouch capability. With this feature, you can play with enhanced expression and control various parameters by applying pressure with your fingers.

      Additionally, it includes 16 RGB pads that respond to touch and pressure. These pads are versatile and can be utilized to trigger clips, drums, chords, or any other MIDI function in Ableton Live. Furthermore, you have the ability to customize the colors and assign different functions to each pad.

      Furthermore, it features 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs that are fully assignable. These controls can be employed to manipulate the mixer, effects, instruments, or any other parameter within Ableton Live. The keyboard also allows you to switch between three banks of controls, granting you access to a total of 27 faders and 27 knobs.

      Lastly, the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII integrates seamlessly with Arturia’s Analog Lab software. Users gain access to a vast library of sounds from Arturia’s collection of vintage synths and keyboards. You can effortlessly browse, edit, and play these sounds directly from the keyboard, enhancing your Ableton projects.

      These are just a few of the benefits that the Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII offers when used with Ableton Live. 

CONS

  • The Arturia KeyLab 61 MkII is a highly capable MIDI controller compatible with Ableton Live, but there are some aspects to keep in mind before purchasing it.
  • Firstly, its price tag of $499 is considerably more than comparable MIDI controllers offering similar features. For those on a limited budget, exploring more affordable alternatives that still provide the necessary functionality may be prudent.
  • Secondly, the KeyLab 61 MkII is not known for its portability, weighing approximately 7 kg and measuring 87 x 29 x 5 cm. This makes it challenging to transport or find space for in smaller environments. Those seeking a compact and easily portable MIDI controller may want to look elsewhere.

3. Nektar Panorama T6

INTUITIVE CONTROL

Deep DAW integration: tracks, parameters.Responsive keybed and velocity curves.
Versatile controls and functions.Easy plug-and-play compatibility.
Picture by Nektar

PROS

  • If you are searching for a MIDI controller that is compatible with Ableton Live, the Nektar Panorama T6 is worth considering as it offers unique features that enhance your creativity and workflow. Here are four significant advantages of the Nektar Panorama T6:

    Firstly, the Nektar Panorama T6 boasts deep integration with your digital audio workstation (DAW). With a dedicated mode for Ableton Live, you can control the mixer, transport, devices, clips, and scenes directly from the keyboard. Furthermore, the LED display allows you to monitor your track and parameter statuses, allowing you to focus more on your music rather than your computer screen.

    Secondly, this MIDI controller comes equipped with expressive keybed and pads. The 61-key synth-action keybed is not only responsive but also offers aftertouch and five velocity curves to cater to your playing style. Additionally, the keyboard features 16 pressure-sensitive pads with RGB LEDs that match the colors of your Ableton Live session. These pads can be utilized for drum triggering, chords, or clips.

    Thirdly, the Nektar Panorama T6 is equipped with versatile controls and functions. It comprises nine faders, eight encoders, and eight buttons that can be assigned to any MIDI CC or function within Ableton Live. You can also utilize the Nektar DAW switch to toggle between internal and external control modes. Additionally, the keyboard offers performance features such as chord, hold, and note repeat to add flavor to your playing experience.

    Lastly, the Nektar Panorama T6 ensures easy setup and compatibility. It operates as a plug-and-play device with Ableton Live, eliminating the need for driver or software installations. Simply connect the keyboard to your computer via USB and select it as a control surface in Ableton Live’s preferences. Furthermore, it is compatible with various other DAWs and VST/AU plugins, allowing you to create customized maps for them.

    In conclusion, the Nektar Panorama T6 is an excellent choice for Ableton Live users seeking greater control and expression in their music production. It offers affordability, power, and user-friendliness. To learn more about this exceptional keyboard, you can explore reviews and videos online or visit a local music store.

CONS

  • The Nektar Panorama T6 is a versatile and powerful MIDI controller, perfect for use with Ableton Live. It boasts 61 semi-weighted keys, 8 velocity-sensitive pads, 9 faders, 8 encoders, and a large LCD screen. With the included Nektar DAW Integration software, you can effortlessly control various aspects of Ableton Live from the controller.

    While the Nektar Panorama T6 offers impressive features, it does have a couple of drawbacks to consider. Firstly, it is relatively expensive compared to other MIDI controllers on the market, costing around $400. This price exceeds that of popular alternatives like the Novation Launchkey 61 MK3 and the Arturia KeyLab Essential 61.

    Additionally, the Nektar Panorama T6 is not very portable, taking up a significant amount of space on your desk or studio. Weighing about 7 kg and measuring 98 x 28 x 10 cm, it may not be the most convenient option for those who frequently transport their equipment. Furthermore, it requires a power adapter, contributing to its bulk and adding to the hassle of transportation.

    Considering these aspects, it’s essential to make an informed purchasing decision. If you’re in search of a more affordable and compact MIDI controller for Ableton Live, we recommend exploring other options in our comprehensive blog post: “Best Midi Controllers Under $500 (Ultimate Guide).

4. M-Audio Hammer 88

AUTHENTIC FEEL

Fully weighted 88-key keyboard.Minimalist design with essential controls.
Generous software bundle, including lessons.Compatible with most DAWs.
Picture by M-Audio

PROS

  • If you’re in search of the finest MIDI controllers for Ableton, then the M-Audio Hammer 88 is definitely worth considering. With its fully weighted 88-key keyboard controller, it delivers an exceptionally realistic and expressive playing experience. Here are a few notable advantages of the M-Audio Hammer 88:

    1. The keyboard possesses an impressive feel and response, featuring a robust and piano-like action that allows for accurate and expressive playability. The included preset editor app allows adjustment of the velocity response curve to suit personal preferences .
    2. The controller boasts a sleek and minimalist design, offering just the right amount of controls and ports necessary for essential functions. Its pitch and modulation wheels, volume fader, and +/- buttons enable seamless control of software or hardware instruments. Additionally, connection support is provided for up to three footswitches and an expression pedal, further enhancing expression and control possibilities .
    3. As an added bonus, the controller is bundled with a generous array of software and virtual instruments, such as Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First, AIR Music Technology’s Mini Grand, Velvet, DB-33, and Eighty Eight Ensemble. Subscribers can also enjoy Skoove, an interactive online piano lesson service .
    4. The controller boasts compatibility with most DAWs and plug-ins, capable of running on either USB bus power or an external power supply. It also offers a MIDI output for connecting external MIDI devices. With its plug-and-play functionality, there’s no need for any additional drivers for USB integration .

    These are just a few reasons why the M-Audio Hammer 88 is an excellent choice for Ableton users seeking a high-quality keyboard controller with a realistic touch and user-friendly interface.

CONS

  • The M-Audio Hammer 88 is a MIDI controller featuring 88 fully-weighted hammer-action keys, providing a realistic piano feel. It is compatible with popular DAWs, including Ableton Live, and comes with a software bundle featuring virtual instruments, effects, and sounds. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider before purchasing.
  • Firstly, the controller is heavy and bulky, weighing 38.5 lbs (17.5 kg) and measuring 55.9 x 11.9 x 5 inches (142 x 30 x 12.7 cm). This makes it challenging to transport and store, particularly if you have limited space or need to travel frequently. Additionally, it offers limited controls and connectivity options, with only a few buttons and wheels available.
  • Furthermore, it lacks pads, knobs, faders, and other performance controls found on alternative MIDI controllers. It also has limited ports, with only one USB port, one MIDI out port, and two pedal inputs. No MIDI in port, audio outputs, or power supply input are included. Therefore, you will need to connect the controller to your computer or an external power source using USB, and utilize a separate audio interface or speakers to hear the sound.

5. Alesis V161 MIDI Keyboard

VERSATILE PERFORMANCE

61 semi-weighted keys with velocity and aftertouch.16 knobs, 48 buttons, 16 pads.
Compatible with Ableton Live.Versatile and portable with MIDI.
Picture by Alesis

PROS

  • If you’re searching for a MIDI controller that pairs smoothly with Ableton, the Alesis VI61 should definitely be on your list. This keyboard stands out among the competition with several features that will boost your music production workflow. Here are four significant advantages of the Alesis VI61:

    1. Featuring 61 semi-weighted keys with velocity and aftertouch, the Alesis VI61 delivers a realistic and expressive playing experience. Furthermore, you have the ability to adjust the octave range of the keyboard using dedicated buttons, or take advantage of the pitch and modulation wheels for even more sound control.

    2. The Alesis VI61 includes 16 rotary knobs, 48 buttons, and 16 pads that can be assigned to any MIDI function you desire. These controls allow you to tweak parameters, launch clips, trigger drums, or send MIDI messages. The backlit pads respond to velocity, offering visual feedback and dynamic performance. Additionally, the keyboard comes with a software editor to easily customize settings and save presets.

    3. Ableton Live and other popular DAWs are compatible with the Alesis VI61, and it features a built-in transport section enabling control of playback, recording, stopping, looping, and more. Create drum rolls using the tempo and roll buttons or synchronize your tempo with the DAW.

    4. The Alesis VI61 is a versatile and portable MIDI controller that can be powered via USB or an optional power adapter. It also includes a MIDI out port allowing connection to other MIDI devices, such as synthesizers or drum machines. The keyboard is durable and sturdy, and it even comes with a bundle of software and sounds to get you started.

    If you’re looking to elevate your music production, the Alesis VI61 is the ideal choice. With its extensive control options and seamless integration with Ableton Live, this professional and affordable keyboard is designed to take your music to new heights.

CONS

  • The Alesis V161 MIDI Keyboard is a popular choice for Ableton users due to its 61 full-sized keys, 16 RGB pads, and 8 assignable knobs and buttons. However, it has a few drawbacks to consider.
  • Firstly, the keys are not weighted or semi-weighted, lacking the authentic feel of a real piano. If you prefer a more realistic playing experience, you should consider a MIDI controller with weighted or semi-weighted keys.
  • Secondly, the Alesis V161 MIDI Keyboard lacks a pitch bend or modulation wheel, which are common features on most controllers. You may need to use an external device or assign these functions to other controls on the keyboard. While the Alesis V161 has its disadvantages, it also boasts numerous advantages such as a large number of keys and pads, integration with Ableton Live, and an affordable price. Ultimately, selecting the ideal MIDI controller depends on personal preferences and needs.

6. NI Komplete Kontrol S49

INTUITIVE INTEGRATION

Two high-resolution color screens.Light Guide enhances sound control.
NKS compatibility with other products.DAW control for efficient workflow.
Picture by NI

PROS

  • If you’re looking for the best MIDI controllers for Ableton, one option worth considering is the NI Komplete Kontrol S49. This smart keyboard controller with 49 keys seamlessly integrates with Ableton Live, as well as other DAWs, and boasts a vast collection of instruments and effects from Native Instruments. Here are some of the advantages of this controller:

    Firstly, it features two high-resolution screens that display pertinent information about your selected instrument or effect, such as presets, scales, parameters, chords, and more. This eliminates the need to constantly glance at your computer screen, thereby improving your workflow and encouraging creativity.

    The S49 is also equipped with a unique feature known as the Light Guide. Above each key, there is a row of LEDs that provide visual cues about various aspects of your sound, including key switches, scales, zones, chords, and more. This feature makes it easy to determine which notes are in tune with your chosen scale, enables you to effortlessly play complex chords with just one finger, and grants access to different articulations of your instruments.

    Another highlight is its NKS compatibility, allowing automatic mapping of vital parameters from any NKS-ready instrument or effect to the eight touch-sensitive knobs on the controller. Furthermore, utilizing the unified browser on the controller, you can access presets and sounds from hundreds of NKS-ready products from Native Instruments and other developers.

    Moreover, the S49 provides seamless DAW integration, enabling control of functions like transport, track selection, mixer, recording, and more. With dedicated buttons and a touch strip, you can effortlessly navigate and manage your project without needing to use your mouse or keyboard. Support for leading DAWs such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro X, Cubase, Nuendo, GarageBand, and more is also included.

    These are just a few of the many advantages of using the NI Komplete Kontrol S49. This powerful and versatile controller has the potential to greatly enhance your music production and performance with Ableton Live and other software. If you’re interested in learning more about this controller, you can find some reviews here .

CONS

  • The NI Komplete Kontrol S49 is a top-of-the-range MIDI controller that seamlessly integrates with Ableton Live and other DAWs. With its high-quality keyboard, large color display, and various knobs and buttons, it allows for easy control of software instruments and effects. However, before purchasing, it is important to consider the drawbacks.
  • Firstly, the S49 is quite expensive, priced at around $600, which is more than double the cost of similar MIDI controllers. If you have a tight budget, you may want to explore cheaper alternatives that still meet your requirements. Additionally, to unlock its full potential, the S49 requires NI software. Without it, you will miss out on features like the Light Guide, Smart Play, and NKS compatibility.
  • Furthermore, regular installation and updates of the NI software can be time-consuming. These are important factors to keep in mind while deciding whether to purchase the NI Komplete Kontrol S49. Nonetheless, the controller boasts many advantages, including superb build quality, seamless integration with Ableton Live, and its expressive performance capabilities. For more information, check out our comprehensive blog post: .

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